There are some here that read Susan's article and take it as a negative portrayal of freelancing. I don't.. It is merely pointing out that freelancing is not necessarily working in your pajamas and having money pour in.
I've been an independent consultant since 1995 and would not have done it this long if it wasn't appealing. For me it would be much more difficult to have a job where I coded the same project for 12, 24, 36, forever months.
Someone asked me about getting started as a consultant... I'll offer a couple of things..
1) I started part-time.
I worked for a large company and took on some database and network consulting for small companies.. 2-10 people. They understood I was available only after work and on weekends.
2) A simple black and white business card is enough
Name, address, phone, email, and the words, "technology consultant" or "computer consultant"
I had created a simple tri-fold - plain paper, black and white. I printed it at home as needed. When I started, I was speaking to some co-workers. I told them we should all start consulting together. He looked at my tri-fold and said, "I would never hire you off of this."
I responded, "Then I guess I wouldn't be working for you. I only work for the people who do hire me."
A year later I sent him my full-color, glossy tri-fold. He didn't hire me off that either - although a year later I started doing work for him based mostly on the automation work I do and his knowledge of that.
What I mean is that slick typically is unnecessary. It really comes down to both numbers and referrals. Actively work both.
3) Share knowledge and results more than a list of skills
I always tell consultants that "The podium and publishing impart credibility".
I present workshops and seminars to business groups. I write tutorials and create simple tutorial videos. Not loss-leader, here is part of the knowledge, if you pay me $299 in 3 simple payments I'll give you the rest.. Nope, give away the farm..
Here is why. If there are 10 people at your workshops and 5 of them are technical enough to do it themselves, only 2 will have the gumption or time. That means 8 of them are potential clients and potential referrals.
4) Website and Mailing list
So I said earlier you only need a card. That is true.. but, if you want to garner additional marketing benefit and build credibility.. a blog based website.. I recommend and use Wordpress - and a mailing list for distributing your GREAT information.. I use mailchimp for this.
If you are unfamiliar, Wordpress is a blogging platform - simple to maintain and update content and some great SEO benefits. Here is a video I did for musicians but it applies in general to wordpress.
I covered consulting in chapter 18 of my book. All of it is available for free from Pearson/InformIT.
Chapter 17 covers working from home - so it might be applicable as well.
Note: since I was already asked... I create the videos using a FREE version of Debut - I don't know if it is still available. Sometimes I just use screen shots and powerpoint - save the presentation as images, import into MS Movie Maker and narrate over them.
This is a great way to provide rapid documentation on key technologies for clients as well. Just a hint.
5) CASE-STUDIES AS SALES TOOLS
For every project you do, write up a simple, neatly formatted, 1 page description with the following headings.
a) The Client: a brief description of client, industry, and their customer demographic
2) The Challenge: a paragraph or two on what they needed help with
3) The Solution: 4-6 paragraphs on how it was solved
4) The Results: 1-3 paragraphs on how the solution has improved their business, operation, sales, etc.
5) A Call To Action: 1 paragraph inviting comments or questions and your email address.
Then, as you build your library of case-studies, any time there is a new potential client, you can offer them a couple case-studies. Give them one on a similar industry and one on a similar technical challenge.
Freelancing is an excellent alternative but, for long term profitability, try to make it less accidental, more intentional and planned.
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